Heartbreak for Tyrone as resilient Kingdom show class
Kerry 1-18 Tyrone 0-18
In getting to the All-Ireland final by a 1-18 to 0-18 scoreline against Tyrone, there is a sense that Kerry are the one side in the country best equipped to halt Dublin's bid for five consecutive All-Irelands.
If there is anything in the muscle memory of Kingdom football people, it is of standing on the precipice of such a monumental task and what can befall them.
Earlier last week, pictures of Dublin t-shirts marking their potential five in a row appeared on Twitter. Doctored pictures or not, these things were all listed down and cited as mitigating factors when Offaly toppled Kerry at the final hurdle of their own bid for a consecutive quintet in 1982.
There is a lot of defeatism about after Dublin produced a devastating third quarter to blitz Mayo in the semi-final played on Saturday night, but there is enough in the Kerry psyche that they will make a game of it on September 1st.
The post-match briefings can be fairly dour affairs after these games, but Kerry manager Peter Keane lightened the mood somewhat when he talked of the prospect in three weeks from now.
"I left the dressing-room below," he began, "and Shane Ryan (Kerry goalkeeper) was on the phone to Gerard Murphy of Vincent Murphy's Sports in Castleisland. His biggest problem was would he get two pairs of boots or three pairs of boots because he'd have the boots worn out so much from kicking the ball out to Dublin."
He became more serious when discussing the immediate future of Stephen O'Brien. With the traffic opening up a bit around the middle, his driving runs caused Tyrone bother and he netted a superb goal by ghosting in unmarked. However in the final moments he was black carded for a pull-down on Connor McAliskey. That brought his tally up to three black cards and a suspension for the final. Kerry will be appealing.
After the first half, few gave Kerry the chance of such worries. 0-9 to 0-5 down, they had managed three points from play across 37 minutes.
Tyrone had the better shape with Cathal McShane and Mattie Donnelly isolated in the full-forward line and the delivery of ball was constant. Kerry played Paul Murphy as a sweeper but all bar one delivery bypassed his reach. McShane scored three and Donnelly two.
They were fluid in defence as well. By the 25th minute, they had already rotated their sweeper, starting off with Michael McKernan, before Padraig Hampsey, Colm Cavanagh and Frank Burns all took turns.
Sean O'Shea had Conor Meyler for company while David Clifford seemed to be still struggling with the calf injury that kept him out of the Meath game a week previous, one spectacular first half point aside.
With six Kerry wides and one Gavin Crowley effort dropping short, their attack was malfunctioning badly.
Keane had to make changes and he went bold. Gavin White and the industrious Jack Sherwood came in and they began putting a lot more pressure on Tyrone in the middle third. The kicks that Kieran McGeary and Frank Burns were bombing in at will slowed to a trickle.
In attack, Paul Geaney and Sean O'Shea came alive. Geaney ran directly at Michael Cassidy and won a free that O'Shea converted before potting a lovely shot of his own. Tyrone's lead was halved and Kerry were in business.
O'Shea was upended by Conor Meyler and kicked his own free. Kieran McGeary grabbed a hold of Stephen O'Brien, O'Shea knocked it over. Sherwood got up to slice one off his left for another.
Tyrone were keeping their noses in front with two more McShane frees but two wides from the same player in the 47th and 50th minutes spread an anxiety. Gavin Crowley switched back on to McShane and got more joy than Foley.
Eleven years since Tommy Walsh was blotted out of an All-Ireland final against Tyrone, he was back via a career in Australian Rules Football with Sydney Swans to add his considerable bulk to the middle third. He dished off a hand pass to David Clifford who angled over to draw level, 0-12 each.
The next play was decisive. McGeary was careless in possession high up the field and with possession gained, Kerry got their overlaps going. O'Shea wriggled past Michael Cassidy's tackle and Ronan McNamee failed to see O'Brien's direct run. The ball popped to him and he placed it expertly past Morgan to the net, adding a point straight after.
From four points down, to four points up. Kerry knew they just had to match Tyrone point for point.
There was a half-chance for Frank Burns for a goal but his shot was blocked down on 58 minutes. A better one presented itself when McShane side-stepped Morley and went in along the end line. He squared to Peter Harte but with Gavin Crowley leaning into him, couldn't get any purchase on the punch and Shane Ryan ushered it away.
O'Brien, Geaney decorated the close with points but the finest of them belonged to Clifford while hitting off his supposed weaker right foot, miles off balance, that dropped sweetly over the crossbar.
A hard defeat for Tyrone to swallow for sure, but Kerry were the better team.